Looking for a list of the world’s best shred guitarists? Well, you’ve found it! In this article, we’ll delve into some of the greatest guitar shredders both past and present.
Within this compendium of shred, I’ve included many of the heavy hitters from the world of shred, but I’ve also made sure to include a few names that you might not be familiar with.
For each artist, I have included a short bio talking about their achievements and play styles, and I have also made sure to add a video showcasing some of their best work.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of shredding, the techniques involved, and maybe what to look for in a suitable guitar, make sure to check out my previous article – Everything You Need To Know About Guitar Shredding.
Let’s dive into the list!
Best Guitar Shredders In The World
Andy James is a British guitarist who first entered my radar through his many excellent instructional videos on LickLibrary. He has a large YouTube following as well as his own guitar course, plus he has been the lead guitarist in several bands, the most recent of which being Five Finger Death Punch.
Andy is a player who can tastefully balance melody and incredible technique to produce powerful tracks that will truly embed themselves into your soul.
Check out his epic track ‘After Midnight‘ below for a masterclass in how to craft the ultimate melodic shred song that just builds and builds. It is absolutely one of my favorite instrumental guitar tracks ever!
Pigeon-holing British guitar virtuoso Guthrie Govan into solely the shred category would seem to be doing the man a bit of a disservice, as he is widely known as being one of the most versatile musicians in the world.
However, you cannot deny that his shred chops are on another level – they don’t call the guy ‘Professor Shred‘ for nothing! Guthrie is truly an absolute monster player.
He found popularity after being named ‘Guitarist of The Year’ by Guitarist Magazine in 1993. He has since enjoyed great success both through his solo work as well as his tenures with several bands such as the Artistocrats, Steven Wilson, and most recently, Hans Zimmer.
The video I’ve selected to showcase his talents is ‘Fives‘ from his Erotic Cakes album. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the album in its entirety – you’ll thank me later!
What list of the greatest shred guitarists of all time would be complete without including the incredible Steve Vai? Wielding his recognizable signature Ibanez guitars, he has been melting faces with his incredible playing since 1978.
Steve is a player who constantly seems to be able to push the boundaries of what is possible on guitar, even after so many years at the very highest levels of musicianship.
You might be expecting me to throw in one of Steve’s absolute classic older tracks here, such as For ‘The Love of God‘, or ‘Tender Surrender‘. But most people into the shred genre have probably enjoyed those masterpieces plenty of times already (I certainly have!).
So instead, why not check out his mesmerizing recent release ‘Teeth of the Hydra‘ instead? If this isn’t a video thumbnail that makes you instantly want to hit the play button, I don’t know what is!
How could you possibly follow up Steve Vai? How about with the guy who gave a 14-year-old Steve Vai guitar lessons?!
But Joe Satriani’s list of famous students doesn’t stop there – Andy Timmons, Kirk Hammett, Alex Skolnick…need I go on? The man is a legend in the world of guitar, influencing countless musicians the world over.
At the time of writing, he holds the record of being the best-selling instrumental musician of all time, with 18 albums released, and over 10 million albums sold.
Satch is one of the few players out there who not only has incredible technique, but is also instantly recognizable as soon as he starts rocking out thanks to his truly unique sound and play style.
John Petrucci is one of the founding members of progressive metal giants Dream Theater. Each musician in Dream Theater is considered as being one of the most proficient at their respective instruments in the world – and John is certainly no exception.
He is an exceptionally gifted and versatile player, with an innate ability to combine incredible speed and precision with melodic charm. Many consider his alternate picking technique to be almost untouchable by most mortal guitarists!
Dream Theater’s live version of ‘The Dance of Eternity‘ is an absolute smorgasbord of sheer musical talent – watch it, savor it, learn from it!
John has also found time to piece together 2 incredible solo albums which are chock full of shred guitar masterpieces. My personal favorite track of his is named after a saying from my hometown of Glasgow – check out ‘Glasgow Kiss‘ if you haven’t already heard it!
Tosin Abasi is a simply phenomenal shred guitarist, known for his innovative and technically unrivaled use of the 8-string guitar. I still remember how blown away I was when I first stumbled across him playing ‘Wave of Babies‘ on EMGtv – I’d never heard anything like it!
He was the first player to truly bring 8-string shred guitar into the limelight, and was no doubt responsible for a new era of extended range guitarists. I know an Ibanez RG8 appeared in my collection not long after discovering him!
For a long time Tosin had his own signature Ibanez model, but later left the Japanese giants to launch his own guitar brand – Abasi Concepts. Much like Tosin’s playing, his guitar designs take a step away from tradition to meld unique aesthetics with modern, and innovative appointments.
Check out some of Tosin’s finest work in the video for ‘CAFO‘ from his band Animals as Leaders. If you both own an 8-string guitar and fancy attempting it, you’ll be able to find tabs over at Ultimate Guitar. Although in saying that, if you have the ability to play this song, you probably don’t need tabs!!
Nuno Bettencourt is best known for being the lead guitarist of rock titans ‘Extreme’. His playing is instantly recognizable thanks to his very percussive and funky technique, along with his ability for melodic phrasing.
Nuno is not only a shred master, with outrageous tapping and alternate picking licks, but is also one of the finest rhythm guitarists around. His riff for Extreme’s ‘He-Man Woman Hater‘ has got to be one of my favorite guitar riffs ever.
Being a huge Extreme fan, I cannot really relate, but the overarching theme in the comments section of many a Nuno Bettencourt video is that he is one of the most underrated guitarists ever. It’s a real shame that his name doesn’t seem to be as well known as it deserves to be!
For a great showcase of the many incredible shred solos and riffs that Nuno has created over the years, check out the video below. He makes it look so effortless!
Love him or hate him, another name that is absolutely synonymous with the genre is Swedish neo-classical shred maestro Yngwie Malmsteen. Well known for playing scalloped fretboards – he is one of very few players with a fully scalloped signature guitar!
His playstyle is full of classically inspired licks and arpeggios fuelled by a blisteringly fast alternate and sweep picking technique. Oh, and let’s not forget his wild vibrato! When you hear Yngwie, you know it’s Yngwie!
To describe his pioneering playstyle he said that “What I did was I took the entire guitar playing technique, threw it out the window and I applied violin technique – no one ever did that before, nobody‘.
See a prime example of his fluid and outrageous playing in the video for ‘Far Beyond the Sun‘ below to see why he is considered one of the best shred guitarists.
Jeff Loomis found fame during his 20-year tenure as guitarist for prog metal band Nevermore before he left in 2011. He currently plays with Swedish metal giants Arch Enemy with whom he has been melting faces since late 2014.
He is known for his command of the 7-string guitar, and has several excellent signature models with Schecter Guitars. I’ve already mentioned that Tosin Abasi caused me to grab my first 8-string guitar, but it was Jeff Loomis who convinced me to try out a 7-string before that. I heard ‘The River Dragon Has Come‘ from Nevermore’s ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World’ and just HAD to learn it!
His play style is very intense and high-energy without abandoning that all-important sense of melody and musicality. Fun Fact – he auditioned for Megadeth at the age of 16 and was only turned down due to his young age. What were YOU doing at 16?
Ready to have your mind blown? Here’s a video from EMGtv which features Loomis ripping out his incredible solo track ‘Jato Unit‘ from his album ‘Zero Order Phase’.
If you’re after sheer speed, mind-bogglingly exceptional speed, then Shawn Lane has to be considered as one of the greatest ever. That’s not to say Shawn was all about dexterity, as his sense of musicality was also incredible, but man, that guy was an absolute speed demon!
Paul Gilbert once referred to Shawn Lane as being “the most terrifying guy of all time”, referring to his abilities on the guitar. It is an unfortunate fact that his name is not widely known to many who are not musicians themselves.
Sadly, Shawn passed away in 2003 aged 40 due to health issues, but his legacy remains and he continues to inspire legions of shred guitarists to this day. Since his passing, he has almost risen to the status of being a mythical figure within guitarist circles.
Check out Shawn’s god-like musicianship in the video below in which he rips out his track ‘Gray Pianos Flying‘.
Paul Gilbert is best known for being the guitarist in rock bands ‘Mr. Big’ and ‘Racer X’. He has also forged a very successful solo career, and has utilized his considerable talents in various side projects.
Although he made his name as a shred guitarist with an incredible picking and legato technique, today he instead prefers to focus on a more blues-based, melodic style of playing.
He has been referred to as being somewhat of a more edgy mix of both Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen. Not a bad place to be!
As a young guitarist, one of my favorite instrumental guitar tracks was ‘Technical Difficulties‘ by Racer X. Unfortunately I never managed to get that one under my fingers – watch the video and you’ll probably understand why…
John 5 is best known for being the guitarist with Marilyn Mason until 2004, and is currently shredding up stages around the world with Rob Zombie. In addition, John also has a number of solo instrumental albums to his name.
He is another shred guitarist who has a playstyle that is very much unique to himself, drawing inspiration from a wide range of genres including country! Check out his version of the 1949 classic ‘Sugar Foot Rag‘ for some superb country-inspired shred antics.
In a 2015 interview with MusicRadar, John explained “The instrumental music that I write is pretty complicated and it presents so many challenges. I love trying to come up with new licks, solos, techniques – each song should have a surprise”.
Watch John’s video below where he rips out ‘This Is My Rifle‘ live.
Eddie Van Halen
You didn’t think I’d forgotten about Eddie, did you? You know, the man Guitar World magazine ranked as being the greatest guitarist of all time! Learning to rip out ‘Eruption’ has almost become a rite of passage for aspiring guitar shredders.
Although Eddie was also known for his wild picking capability, he was arguably most famous for his intricate tapping licks, and really helped to popularize this technique throughout the 1980s.
As a young guitarist obsessed with shred I suffered a lot from repetitive strain injuries in my picking hand wrist. It wasn’t until I finally stumbled across an interview where Eddie spoke about his picking style that I was finally able to alter my technique and play without pain. So I definitely owe a great deal of gratitude (and medical bills!) to him.
I found this fantastic video showcasing some choice picks of Eddie playing live. Grab a coffee and enjoy some of the legend’s best playing!
Buckethead is another incredible shredder who is unfortunately not widely known outside of guitarist circles. He had a short stint with Guns N’ Roses from 2000 until 2004, but is best known for his solo material.
He is a prolific writer, having released over 300 albums to date! In addition, he has performed on over 50 albums by other bands – busy guy! And most importantly, he can shred with the best of them.
Buckethead performs with a KFC bucket on his head, and a white Halloween-style mask. Couple that with his 6′ 5″ frame and his penchant for demonstrating nunchucks and robot dancing on stage, and you have a recipe for a guitarist you won’t forget in a hurry!
Watch him unleash Guitar Hero favorite ‘Jordan‘ in the video below. He really gets up to warp speed in this one, but it still just looks absolutely effortless for him!
Mark Tremonti was a founding member of the hard rock band Creed, a group which he performed with for almost 15 years in total. He is currently the lead guitarist in Alter Bridge, and also has his own speed metal band ‘Tremonti’ which he formed in 2011.
He has been a PRS Guitars endorser since the early days of Creed and has his own signature singlecut with the brand, as well as a signature head.
In the realm of shred, Mark is known for his fluid legato licks as well as for his impressively tight, lightning-fast picking technique. He is a tasteful player who favors melody over speed, so every time he does unleash the power, there’ll be a musical reason for it.
You’ll find a ton of amazing solos throughout Mark’s meaty discography, but here’s one you might never have heard called ‘Ahavo Rabo Taco Salad‘. This was actually written and recorded for a Total Guitar magazine lesson back in 2005.
Michael Angelo Batio
Michael Angelo Batio is another name synonymous with shred. In 2003, Guitar One magazine voted him the fastest guitar shredder of all time!
He is widely known for his showboating performances where he regularly plays his double and quad-necked guitars and unleashes his wild ‘over under’ fretting technique.
Crucially for this list, he is also well known for his phenomenal speed, and has truly mastered pretty much every technique a shred guitarist could need in their toolbox. He particularly impresses with both his picking speed, and insane sweep-picked arpeggios.
Check out the video below for a great example of Michael Angelo Batio’s incredible showmanship as he belts out an incredible solo on his double guitar – playing both left AND right-handed!
Dimebag Darrell was the guitarist for heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan before his tragic murder in 2004. He is often regarded as being the best heavy metal guitarist of all time. In 2015, VH1 ranked him as being the most influential metal guitarist of the last 25 years.
Dimebag was known for his aggressive playstyle, with his wild whammy bar tricks being his signature moves of choice.
As a young player, he was famously banned from competing in local talent competitions after winning too many of them!
Check out the video below which showcases an 18-year-old Dimebag ripping out an incredible shred solo in 1984.
Jason Becker is known for being a founding member of heavy metal band Cacophony, which he formed with (other shred legend) Marty Friedman. In addition, he has released several solo albums and has worked with other artists such as Dave Lee Roth.
Jason is another one of those almost mythical status players who was gifted with an unnaturally scary talent for guitar. He is regarded for his unfathomably fast alternate picking, sweeps, flowing legato, whammy bar showmanship – if it’s a shred guitar technique, Jason has mastered it!
He was tragically diagnosed with ALS in 1989 which robbed him of his ability to play guitar, walk, and eventually, speak. Although initially given just 3-5 years to live, his condition has remained stable since 1997 and he is still recording and releasing music to this day via the aid of a special computer.
Sadly, there aren’t many great quality videos of Jason, but here is a cracker I found that showcases just how accomplished a player he was. Insane legato runs (whilst playing with a yo-yo!), incredibly clean sweeped arpeggios, God-level speed picking – it’s all on show here!
Randy Rhoads was a founding member of heavy metal band Quiet Riot, but is best known for his work on Ozzy Osbourne’s first couple of solo album releases. He tragically died in a plane crash in 1982 aged just 25, but continues to inspire legions of new shred guitarists to this day.
Although known for being a heavy metal guitarist, Randy started his education in guitar by studying classical music. By combining his classical background with metal music, he was able to really popularize the genre now known as neoclassical metal.
As well as helping to solidify a whole new sub-genre of music, he is also credited with playing a large part in popularizing techniques such as two-handed tapping and whammy bar dive-bombs.
Loudwire has put together the following highlights video which showcases some of Randy’s greatest moments throughout his short career.
Zakk Wylde is best known for his tenure as lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, as well as for being the frontman for both Black Label Society and Black Sabbath cover band Zakk Sabbath.
His trademark moves are his insanely wide vibrato, ferocious alternate picking technique, and of course, his aggressive pinched harmonics. You certainly wouldn’t struggle to identify a Zakk Wylde track from a sea of other solos.
He is also credited for his use of the pentatonic scale in previously unheard-of ways. Up until Zakk hit the scene in the late 80s, it was the norm for shred guitarists to be jamming on 3-note-per-string patterns and sweep picked arpeggios.
For the video, I’ve selected this absolute adrenaline rush of an improvised solo that Zakk recorded for EMGtv.
Michael Romeo is a founding member of prog metal titans Symphony X and also has several solo albums to his name. He is widely regarded as being one of the very best neoclassical shred guitarists around.
Blending heavy metal and classical composition, his playing is infused with a strong sense of melody, and he is known for his slick legato phrasing, tapped arpeggios, and impossibly fast alternate picking.
As a young wannabe shredder, Symphony X was one of the first bands I became a little obsessed with. Michael’s guitar abilities were something I could strive towards, and man, can Russell Allen sing!
Check out the playthrough video for his track ‘Fear The Unknown‘ below for a masterclass in tasteful shred guitar.
Simone Mularoni is currently melting faces with Italian prog metal behemoths DGM. He seemed a good fit after Michael Romeo as DGM is a band I stumbled across after Symphony X’s singer Russell Allen performed guest vocals on one of their tracks.
He is known for his tapped licks and ultra-fast picking, which he often performs in tandem with the band’s keyboard player for a phenomenal sound.
For me, Simone is one of the most tasteful and melodic guitar shredders in the world today. I could honestly listen to his upbeat playing all day long.
Check out the video below for a playthrough of his ultra-catchy solo from one of DGM’s latest tracks ‘Surrender.
Satchel (Russ Parish)
Satchel is best known for being the guitarist in comedy glam rockers ‘Steel Panther’. Although the band is all about poking fun at the antics of hair metal bands from the 1980s, Satchel manages to entertain and play his role to a tee whilst also melting faces with his impressive shred skills. The act just wouldn’t be as funny if he didn’t have the musicianship to back up the comedy!
He is endorsed by Charvel Guitars and currently has his own signature Pro-Mod DK22 with a classic ’80s style Bengal tiger finish.
When it comes to 1980s-era shred skills, Satchel uses them all! You can witness his showmanship in action in the video below where he unleashes a torrent of shred wizardry, all while playing drums at the same time. What an entertainer!
Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal
Ron Thal, aka Bumblefoot, has to be one of the most unique shredders on this list. His style is so crazy, involving a ton of innovative techniques, many of which he came up with himself.
He served almost a decade as the guitarist in Guns N’ Roses, and is currently rocking it up in supergroup ‘Sons of Apollo’.
Bumblefoot’s signature guitar is a double-necked Vigier called the ‘DoubleBFoot’, which features one regular six-string neck as well as a fretless neck.
Enjoy some choice fretless guitar shred in Bumblefoot’s recent video below which showcases his track ‘Cintaku‘.
Nita Strauss, aka Hurricane Nita, found fame as one-fifth of ‘The Iron Maidens’, an all-female Iron Maiden tribute band. She is currently performing axe duties with Alice Cooper, and is also a successful solo artist.
Nita was the first-ever female Ibanez endorsee to have her own signature guitar – the JIVA. She also has her own online course where she teaches the fundamentals of rock and metal guitar.
Check out her official video for ‘Our Most Desperate Hour‘ from her album ‘Controlled Chaos’ below.
I feel like I’ve rambled on enough for now, but here’s a list of several other incredible artists that I haven’t yet mentioned. Be sure to check them out as well!
- Allan Holdsworth
- Frank Gambale
- Al Di Meola
- Vinnie Moore
- Nick Johnston
- Marty Friedman
- Alex Skolnick
- Dave Murray
- Adrian Smith
- Ritchie Blackmore
- Michael Schenker
- Tony MacAlpine
- Synyster Gates
- Jason Richardson
- Kirk Hammett
- Rusty Cooley
- Jennifer Batten
- Al Di Meola
- Alexi Laiho
- Michael Amott
- Kiko Loureiro
- George Lynch
- Greg Howe
- Chris Impellitteri
- Herman Li
I have no doubt missed a TON of great players, so feel free to shoot me an email if you think there’s someone really important missing here! You’ll find a link to the contact form in the footer below.